Atlantic Rail: A 1930s steam train to Simon’s Town

Posted by Adel Groenewald on 28 June 2012

After spending a glorious weekend with friends in beautiful Kommetjie, getting up early on a Sunday morning to drive back to the city and board a train with my family didn’t sit very well with me. But after a leisurely ride on the 1930s Atlantic Rail steam train, winding along the Atlantic coast and enjoying lunch in Simon’s Town, I will recommend this trip to anyone.

Departure time was at 10:30 at the old Train Lodge, just behind Cape Town station. We rushed in at about 10:17, knowing that trains don’t wait for humans, only to find many relaxed and cheerful passengers buying drinks from the bar and my mom handing over some much needed takeaway coffees and muffins – moms just know.

After a quick visit to the bathroom (we were told that the train’s toilets are also from the 1930s) we boarded our six-seat compartment, admiring the wood work and the original Spoornet windows (complete with the springbok print) and settling into our cosy seats for the next hour or so.

With surprising ease, the train departed, slowly rolling into motion.

It’s safe to say that we weren’t travelling at incredible speeds. But that’s what made the ride so great. Here we were, cruising through town, passing modern suburbs and industrial areas, on a train made mostly out of wood and powered by steam engines. And not just any old steam train either – a train that was used for overnight trips in Namibia in the 1940s.

The slow pace, the thrill of being on an old sleeper train and the cheeriness of a sunny Sunday morning  resulted in many hanging out the windows, enjoying the cool air and spontaneously waving to anyone and everyone who passed in the streets. It seems like those living along the tracks know of this occasional happening. Some even stood ready on their balconies, waving and filming as we cruised on by.

The bar on the train serves a range of cold drinks, giving the parents their red wine to enjoy while the kids enjoy the views and the fresh air. There are, however, no warm drinks available as there is no electricity on the train.

We soon reached the ocean and winded our way along the rugged coastline, right beside the waves. We had front row surfing tickets as we passed Muizenberg and we waved hallo to the fishermen on the rocks and families on the beach. In a world where strangers don’t talk if they aren’t forced, it truly felt like I was transported to a world of friendly as I watched moms with babies on their hips and families geared with backpacks and hats cheerfully waving at the folks on the train.

As we rode into Simon’s Town, we walked up to the locomotive, named Jenny, and had a chat to the driver. Anyone interested can climb up and have a look at the classic workings of the train, the shovel lying ready to feed the fire and the red hot coals that were burning away just a few minutes ago.

A short stroll leads you into town were we had about two and half hours to enjoy lunch and wander around before boarding and doing it all in reverse. This is truly a wonderful way to spend a Sunday with the family and seeing a different side to Cape Town.

Some stats about Jenny, for those interested:

Type: Class 24 2-8-4
Tractive effort (75 percent): 123 kN
Weight in working order: 73t (loco) 56t (tender)
Cylinders: (2) 483 x 660mm
Tender capacity: Coal 9t Water 20 500l
Coupled wheels: 1290mm
Boiler pressure: 1379kPa


The Atlantic Rail rides twice a month (sometimes only once). It departs from Cape Town at 10h30, arrives in Simon’s Town around 12h00 and returns to Cape Town at 15h00. Guests who want to get of at Kalk Bay station are welcome to, as long as they inform Atlantic Rail ahead of time.

Cost: R220 for adults and R110 for children 3-12 yrs.

Email: [email protected]
Tel: +27215585805



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